Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Same-sex marriage and the Church

I don't care if the secular government allows same-sex marriage or not, I would rather social contracts like civil unions (which is what marriages are under the law) be mediated by the courts, not the legislature. But this debate has turned into quite a fiasco. As it turns out it was religious beliefs that passed Prop 8 more than any other factor, so we have a backlash against religion, especially Christianity.

To begin we need to make it clear that when regarding legislation, there must be a secular argument made. The argument "Because that's the way God wants it" doesn't hold any muster in civil discourse. President-elect Barack Obama had a famous speech on this at a Call to Renewal Conference, and even Mike Huckabee on his latest appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart admitted as much.

The only problem is in the public, secularized argument it boils down to "we can't redefine marriage." They don't give a reason why it is wrong to redefine words, especially in the face of the facts that words do change their definitions all the time (and our present, outgoing White House administration is famous for redefining terms).

In his interview with Jon Stewart, Huckabee said it is important that the word "marriage" not be redefined because words are important. But this doesn't really hold up when you consider the word "voter" in this nation was originally defined as a white, male landowner. It was redefined to include all white males, and later to include blacks and Native Americans. And only a century ago it finally included women. And in fact "marriage" was never defined as a mutual, consensual commitment until the 19th Century. For millennia marriage was a man acquiring a wife, and this was something he could do multiple times. It was often times included in a purchase or trade for goods. If you want to get strict about the traditional definition of marriage, it must mean women are chattel to barter for property or privledge.

I am off-course. I have so far pointed out how the religious side in trying to secularize their argument has failed to make a compelling argument. I spent too much time doing so, so I will proceed.

The secular, same-sex marriage supporters see through this transparent argument and realize it really is just about the religious beliefs, and therefore see it as an imposition of religion into political discourse. And this is why there is such push back. And the whole reason why I wanted to write this post was to get to this point.

The left-wing side is now attacking the Bible and a conservative reading of scripture. The conservative Christian battle against a secular matter in a secular world has opened the doors to the secular world defining Christian doctrine. A cover story for Newsweek magazine battles not just a Biblical view of marriage but also literalism as a whole, casting doubt on anything you might pull from scripture that doesn't fit with the popular public view of love and acceptance.

Clearly this a problem. We cannot allow the secular world to define ecclesiastical doctrine. But at the same time we cannot use the combative, militant tactics the religious-right has been using for the past thirty-years. We must stand firm in our own beliefs without telling the world they have to accept it. We cannot have a defensive posture on the issue, but we can't have an offensive movement either. Instead, we should focus on the good works prepared for us from the foundation of the world. We should be focused on mercy, justice, humility, being set apart, and making disciples. We should be preparing the Bride of Christ for the wedding feast, inviting all to join us always. This is the duty of the Church.

We're not here to rule the world, Satan's already got that position and it was given to him by God. We've been given our orders, and that is to submit to the authorities, pray for the rulers, and live out quiet lives. We spend too much time making sure we live comfortable lives without persecution that we do not accept the cross we've been given to bear.

Phillipians 1:27-29
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him